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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  June 17, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT

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tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. first up tonight, part two of our conversation with talk show icon larry king. he is out with a new book featuring his favorite moments from 25 years on cnn. the new book is called "truth be told". also tonight actress lucy punch is here in a breakout performance, "you will meet a tall, dark stranger." she is out next weekend with her latest film "bad teacher". we're glad you have joined us. part two of our conversation with larry king and actress lucy punch coming up right now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley.
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with every question and every answer. nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one nation at a -- conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: larry king, good to see you again. >> good to be back. tavis: when we last saw each other, you had given us your own assessment of what lebron james did right and did wrong. it has been funny to me.
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lebron james has gotten more exposure on espn than the mavs have. the heat lost. they are talking more about lebron james and the mavs. everybody is talking about lebron, not the mavs. it speaks to how out of whack sports are right now and what they ought to be covering. >> it is a good present representation of society. tavis: yeah. >> what are we talking about more, anybody in america today on television is the young girl who was murdered in florida and the mother on trial. that is more important than afghanistan? we're out of whack. that criticism on lebron has gone beyond out of whack. but you were going ask me about my -- tavis: what did you take from the way he did it with regard to how you arranged your exit from cnn? >> well, i was really -- mixed emotions. i loved that show. but we were doing a lot of tabloid stuff that i didn't like and also i had a year to go on my contract and normally
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whenever i have renewed over 25 years i got a four-year contract, five years, three years. the least was three. they flew out to los angeles. they were very nice. i like the people at cnn. and they offered me kind of like a one-year tenuous. i read kind of the writing in a sense and i said why don't we just -- i'll do as long as you want and you have to pay me through the year anyway. he said well, ok, how about doing four specials and then i said ok. how about the announcer. then the agents got together and arranged on the finances and then i thought i should go on and just sort of tell it the way it happened. this was the end of this line. not every line. it was time to hang it up. and then on the last night of the show we had clinton, obama,
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tony bennett live from a concert. bill maher and ryan seacrest co-hosting. my family. my son was hysterical imitating me. they threw a party for me at spagos. i thought it was a nice way of ending it. it was bittersweet. tavis: i'm curious to get some advice from you. >> are you leaving? tavis: not at the moment at least. you never know in this business. you might be leaving and you don't know you're leaving. >> they didn't tell you. tavis: what advice do you have for persons who are trying to figure out when is the appropriate time to levee? whatever job they -- leave, whatever job they may be doing? >> a lot of this book is about loss because you're giving up something. i've been in the business 54
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years. half of it at cnn. tavis: mm-hmm. >> and the way to end -- of course jon stewart said you jump off a sinking ship. he said they got an english guy to replace you and when anderson goes they got a guy from turkey. tavis: he is funny. >> yeah, he is. bright as a whip. i don't think there is a rule. i think you know it when you know it. colin powell, one of my favorite people on the planet said to me you know when you're on a subway train in new york and you get to the last stop, when you get to that stop, get off. tavis: mm-hmm. >> if you go back, you're just trailing old territory. you got to know when to get off the train. and i think most people watching who are thinking of this know it.
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you know it when it is time. the only thing is, as i said there, may be times when you regret it. tavis: hmm mm. >> the time i almost left cnn. i had a window in my contract and i almost left two years after i started. i was going to leave. i had offers from abc. kingworld was going to set me up like in an oprah situation. i was going follow "nightline". the bait bob wolf was going to go down to atlanta and tell ted we were leaving and angie dickinson, dear friend, i came out to los angeles and she said to me -- oh, i'm leave. she said to me, a simple question. are you unhappy? oh, no. why are you leaving? i said it is more money. you're just leaving for money. if you leave something just for money, the first bad day you
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have you're going regret it. you got to have more than one reason and then ted called me up and kept me. that was the best non-move i ever made. i think you know if you're ready to leave here, tavis, by the way, see this is the best gig in television. your gig. i would trade places with your gig. no commernls. you got your own gig. they treat you like a king here. they worship you. you're somewhere out on sunset boulevard. ow no one is going to follow you here. i don't know what the name of this neighborhood is. you're not even near dodger stadium. you're somewhere. they give you this great gig and you decide well, i'm going to hold you over for a show. tavis: you may have just cost me my job. the folks at pbs just heard you say if tavis were to leave larry king would take his spot. i may get a notice tomorrow.
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>> i didn't mean. that we now know television. tavis: that's funny. speaking of sitting in chairs like these, you gave an interview to the bbc sometime back. you talk about it in the book as a matter of fact. you gave a conversation to bbc. they asked you at the end of the conversation a question about your replacement, piers morgan. you can't replace you. piers morgan. you had some comments about him that got a lot of pickup. >> what i said is they overpromoted and no one could be the equal of that promotion. so piers' promotion was i'm dangerous. i'm the water cooler. i'm going change your life. you can't do that. when you do that, no one can equal that. it wasn't piers. it was me. if i'm doing a special next week and i say to you watch this special.
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this is the greatest special ever made. it ain't the greatest special and no one is dangerous. can be dangerous hosting a talk show because they can turn you off. i said that to him on his show. he understood it. it came out that i was criticizing him. i was criticizing the method of promotion that they were using. he and cnn had agreed to it to go on. i like piers a lot by the way. i think he is very good. tavis: this question is not connected to anything. i'm a fan of his and i'm a fan of yours. i was just in new york interviewing him at the tribeca film festival, harry belefont everyone. there is a great story in the book. i thereof story. >> a break in the color line. people -- miami beach booked a lot of black guys however they
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could not stay in. they had a hotel at which black performers stayed. there was a new hotel opening. jackie gleason owned a part of it, the hilt op plaza. harry and his gang were the opening act. i love harry and i used to interview him. i met him when he was checking in like two days before to open on friday night. it was like wednesday. goes up to the register. i'm harry belefonte. welcome. we are looking forward -- when are your rehearsal times? your car is outside. we'll be taking you to your hotel. he said i work here. i stay where i work. they actually called gleason. what do we do? what do you do? you check him in is what you do. ok, mr. belefonte.
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we're happy to have you. then he says and i need of course 14 other rooms. for my entire black troop who'll be singing. they had to check everything in. another thing i didn't put in the book when the civil rights law passed. they had a reception at the white house and lyndon johnson was shaking hands with everyone. belefonte said i'll shake hands with you mr. president but i have to thank you for my birthright? no one liked harry. tavis: i love harry. >> harry and sidney. short order cooks together in new york. ugly guys, though. tavis: here is my question. you still got so much more to do. i don't know what it must feel like. i would love to have this feeling one day to have done
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kind of iconic work that you have done and still have life and energy and years in front of you still. what do you want your legacy to be? >> boy. someone said what would you like your obituary lead to be? oldest man in the world passed away today. i don't want to go. i'm going to go kicking. i think the legacy should be that he -- he never betrayed the business he chose. in other words, he -- he gave his best to entertain and inform and hopefully made the business he chose a little bit better than when he went into it. because i love this business. this is a gift. see this -- this camera is a gift. dwopets own this camera. other people own -- we don't own
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this camera. i never owned it. i respected it. i love my industry. didn't like all the people in it. you can't like everything. the last time i worked i was 22 years old and a helper on the united parcel service truck. i ain't worked in 54 years. tavis: i love larry king. you're the best. >> you're the best. tavis: the new book is called "truth be told." memorable moments, funniest jokes and a half century of asking great questions. larry, always an honor to have you on this program. >> thank you. he's leaving, folks. tavis: up next, a conversation with actress lucy punch and her role in the film "bad teacher". stay with us. lucy punch has established herself as a rising star in hollywood following her role
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opposite anthony hopkins in the woody allen film "you will meet a tall, dark stranger." she is now in "bad teacher" with cameron diaz. here now a scene from "bad teacher". >> here she is. elizabeth halsey. i am so excited we're going to be across the hall mates but i am so sad because your relationship ended. >> who are you again? >> amy squirrel. >> squirrel? yeah. you know. don't worry, you were kind of a lone wolf last year and so busy planning the wedding. >> i found him in bed with somebody else. >> oh, my gosh! >> it was another man. >> shut the front door! tavis: lucy, nice to have you here. >> wonderful to be here. tavis: you like rocking that red wig? >> it was fun. i was glad it was a wig. i'm glad i didn't have to dye my hair for the part.
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very itchy. a lot of pins in my head. tavis: this is a very simple and silly comment to make but i am always amazed and just tickled at how british actors can just lose the accent like that for a role like this. what is the trick to making your accent disappear? >> we're lucky growing up. we have all american movies and american tv shows so it is a familiar sound. i also worked with a dialect coach. i don't know. i'm glad you think i lost it. and as i'm watching myself i'm going oh, no. tavis: it is gone. so tell me about the film. you and cameron diaz are in a school together. >> yes, and she is a bad teacher and i'm the good teacher. it is a very simple plot. she is basically trying to get h rich man and to do that, she thinks she needs larger breasts so she is saving up for a boob
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job. meanwhile, back story. i'm warring with her for the affections of justin timberlake, which was a lot of fun and also kind of faintly ridiculous to me that i'm fighting with cameron diaz for justin timberlake. when is that ever going to happen? but i enjoyed it. tavis: how are you making choices these days about the stuff that you want to do. i mentioned the woody allen piece which everybody loves you and knows you from that particular project. how do you decide you want to do this project with cameron and justin? >> well, it was a wonderful script. cameron and justin are in the movie. the it was a pretty easy decision. also, i always find it funny when i watch actors going i chose to do this part. a lot of times you're lucky to get the job. you're like thank you so much. but certainly i really enjoyed doing that, playing these comic parts recently.
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i do more serious stuff but you know, funny doesn't get old. so i hope to work for a long time and if i can, you know, keep creating sort of wacky comic characters hopefully i can continue working. tavis: that's a phrase i haven't heard in a long time. funny doesn't get old. you're obviously good at it. what is the challenge for you. how do you dip into the funny bag and then bounce back to the not so funny stuff? you don't feel more comfortable in one space or the other? >> no, i don't. i mean, i don't feel like i'm particularly like a naturally witty person. i've done auditions something for something very dramatic. i heard laughing. it was you not right but you
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were so funny how you said that. i was like i was trying to be really dramatic. i was trying mover you all. -- move you all. so i think -- tavis: you're funnier than you think you are? >> yeah. someone told me i have funny facial expressions. i don't know whether i take that as a compliment or not. but -- tavis: but it works. >> it works. it has been working so far, yeah. tavis: what was the experience like working with woody allen? >> surreal and incredible. i had been out of work for a year and i was sitting in my apartment very depressed and going i'm going to have to go back to london. i'm completely broke . i got this call and a few weeks later i found myself onset with anthony hopkins playing my husband. and being directed by woody and it was -- it was scary and unnerving. he doesn't give an awful lot of direction and he also -- there
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is a difference -- i only learned this recently. between the american use of quite. if you say something is quite good, you mean that is rather good. if we say something is quite good, we mean all right. he kept saying to me that was quite good. i'm like wait a second. i've got a lot more ideas. he would be like relax. it was quite good. i would be like listen, woody. he would be you're quite good but so neurootsic. i'm like are you kid mega? i'm being -- you quite good. i would be woody, i'm so sorry for always coming and pestering you. i'm nervous and i want to make sure i do a good job. he looked at me and said don't
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worry at all. i thought he was ignoring me. he goes you know, i'm not ignoring you. i'm a little deaf and i have this hearing aid and he takes it out of his box and shows it to me. he goes every time you are talking to me, i just turn it off. i thought that is nice. probably a wise move. he is just like turn her off. tavis: i'm glad you figured out what the quite good thing means. that could drive you crazy. >> i was like oh, my goodness. i was so embarrassed. he must have thought i was a complete maniac. he was complimenting me and i am like wait, wait. tavis: one thing that is interesting about the story is there is a back story to how you got the role. nicole kidman. >> i got a phone call and it was
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my agent saying he wants you to go meet him. i was totally broke and i'm like oh, i've got to go. i got a call. i was in london in the middle of the night. they said he had given part away. i was devastated and then i found out it was nicole kidman. i was a bit more understanding. fair enough. nicole. i get it. but then she pulled out. yeah, i got the chance to -- i didn't ever meet him during this process. i was just getting myself on tape but yeah, i got another chance. tavis: what do you take from the fact to your earlier point before you got that call, you had tried some stuff. it hasn't hit for you. you were not making a lot of money. you were on the verge of going back to london. what do you make of that moment turning things around. i ask that because there are so
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many people waiting for that moment to come into their own lives where things are really going to start moving for them. but they are having difficulty. i've been there. we have all been there. you ever struggling to hold on until that moment actually arrives. >> well, it was hard. i didn't have a backup plan. so i sort of had a friend of mine who gave me a talking to about a month before i got that job. she was like you need to change your attitude and you need to live like you have got it and after i got that part, i went on and i got a number of other roles in movies and it helped that i had done the woody allen film but i also had to go in and really fight for those parts and the reason i could is because i had so much confidence like, you know, well, i deserve to be here. i think it is really hard. i don't know what to say. i think it is a confidence
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thing. it is, yeah, it is a tough one. it is a really tough one. i didn't -- tavis: is the confidence for you connected strictly or uniquely to doing the work, just getting -- let me rephrase this. is the confidence for you connected to getting the work or doing the work in a certain way? >> getting the job and if you feel like you're doing a good job and are pleased with the result. yeah, if you're doing something that is you know, hard to get into, acting, it is an awful lot of competition, yeah, it can sort of erode your confidence. i was lucky i got it back. tavis: you're off and running these days. you don't have confidence issues anymore these these days. >> you know how it is. tavis: you're off and running now. this last name, punch. tell me about your last name.
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what do you know about it? >> i know very little. i asked my dad. he was like i don't know. i could have found out about it myself but it is an unusual british name. i met one of your producers whose mother has punch as a middle name. people think i made it up and i haven't. tavis: when i was a kid, if my mom is wait watching or my dad, i was never into tavis smiley. it is one of those names easy to remember. writers can play off the last name. >> it is fun. imagine if you were going to be a lawyer. or i wanted to be a surgeon. lucy punch. tavis: dr. punch. >> like from the wwf? tavis: it is a great name in the business that you're in now.
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>> yes, it is. tavis: it works. the name works. the movie works. it is called "bad teacher" starring one lucy punch alongside cameron diaz and justin timberlake. good to have you on the program. that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi. i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with environmental advocate robert kennedy jr. that's next time. we'll see you then. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better.
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>> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and removing obstacles to empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. 
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